First came the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction, which inspired Pub Mania, which then evolved into the Community Challenge when a global pandemic closed down Patrichttps://www.patrickspub.comk’s Pub & Eatery. For three years, the Community Challenge plugged along, helping the Children’s Auction raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for local organizations that help kids.
This year, something curious happened. Pub Mania made a kind of return, but as a curtailed version, serving not as an event on its own, but as a celebration, or perhaps the exclamation point, punctuating the finale of the 30 Challenge teams’ collective fundraising efforts over the prior year.
And it was never so successful.
When Pub Mania — a 12-hour sprint this year, instead of the 24-hour marathons of previous years — concluded on the evening of Dec. 7, 2023 it had raised a collective $356,456 for the Children’s Auction, helping that annual event to raise $711,000 for the benefit of the youngest of the region’s residents in need.
The 2023 version of Pub Mania is a lesson in how less can sometimes be more. Allan Beetle, one of the owners of Patrick’s and one of the founders of Pub Mania, said the 12-hour event contained just as much fun and community spirit as the 24-hour event did, but was much easier on organizers — all while raising more money than ever.
Pub Mania took inspiration from another Children’s Auction fundraiser, during which teams of cyclists rode stationary bicycles for 24 hours. Beetle applied the model to the opposite end of the athletic spectrum — challenging teams to occupy a barstool for every hour around the clock. It started in 2009, and grew quickly.
Part of Pub Mania’s success was due to the ability of each individual barstool team to find novel ways to raise money both before and during the timeframe of the event itself. Some teams discovered they could boost their individual team’s fundraising total — and therefore the collective total for the event — by hosting events such as walks and 5Ks, dance parties and concerts, or cribbage tournaments.
When COVID protocols precluded the gathering of people for a 24-hour barstool challenge, the Pub Mania teams were spun off into what eventually became known as the Community Challenge, in which the focus was on those extracurricular fundraising events, which again funneled their proceeds into the Children’s Auction — a yearly auction of donated items which distributes its funds to nonprofits who serve local children and families in need.
After a three-year hiatus, Pub Mania returned this year, albeit in a much shorter time frame.
“I think that a lot of thought went into if we bring it back, how do we make it sustainable?” Beetle said. “The 12-hour version was a key element of that." There were some other changes behind the scenes, he said, such as having Meredith Village Savings Bank handle the deposits and accounting.
“If anything, it was a step up, a notch up, from previous Pub Mania,” Beetle said.
With a 12-hour event instead of 24, it’s easier for organizers to stuff each hour with events to help the time fly by. There was a comedy hour, a talent hour and many performances.
“We had a variety of entertainment. It was fun. Each hour we’d feature some kind of entertainment. And on the other side of the coin, we usually encourage the 30 or so people to come up onstage,” Beetle said.
Pub Mania, it turned out, served an important function for the Community Challenge teams. Even though the bulk of their fundraising occurred outside of the event, having a fun, in-person event was the inspiration for each team’s efforts.
The ‘Tagg Team’
There are some new teams that join each year, and there are some that have stuck around for years. “Tagg Team,” led by Judi Taggart and her husband Butch, has been part of Pub Mania, and now also the Community Challenge, since the first year in 2009.
This year, “Tagg Team” won the top award for “Outstanding Participation,” which measures how engaged and active team members were during the barstool challenge, and they also took fifth place on the “Top Dollar” charts, raising $26,831.
Taggart said the team’s fundraising strategy has been holding what she calls “gift card galas,” which people attend in the hopes they will take home a gift card or two. The galas are held in the spring, shortly before Mother’s Day, so winners can choose to give the cards as a gift to an important mother in their life, or keep it for themselves.
Taggart said what’s kept the couple involved for so many years is the auction's efficiency, raising more than $700,000 this year with only one paid employee, and the fact that it will share the wealth with as many as 80 local organizations. Taggart was raised to have a desire to contribute to her community.
“I used to be the campaign director for United Way,” Taggart said. “I’ve seen the ins and outs of the organizations that are being helped. I’ve seen it first hand.”
Taggart said the strength of her team is in its diversity and inclusivity.
“I like to include as many people as possible, each person can offer whatever they are comfortable with,” she said, noting Pub Mania helps to promote such diversity. “They can sit on the barstool, they can ask their friends and family to donate, they can write personal checks,” she said. Many UPS drivers are on the team, who do their own activities to raise more than $1,000. Another member of her team collects spare change all year long, raiding every coin jar she is granted access to, and brings in several hundred dollars in the process.
Pub Mania, Taggart said, “is a way to have people come face-to-face together. Whether you’re sitting on the bar stool or stopping by for lunch or dinner, it’s a gathering event to bring people together. It’s kind of like the glue of the Community Challenge.”
During Pub Mania, there are rules, and there are points to be awarded for those who follow the rules. With rules come referees, and this year, Joshua Ritson donned a referee jersey for the event.
This wasn’t Ritson’s first Pub Mania; he has seen the event from a few different angles. He worked at Patrick’s for a few years, starting in 2015, both in the kitchen and in the front of the house, and his takeaway from those years was how “really well-organized and planned” the event was, thanks to Allan and Jennifer Beetle and the other leadership in the restaurant.
Ritson left the service industry in 2018 to get into real estate — he currently works for Coldwell Banker — but he said it was an easy answer when Beetle asked him to come back for Pub Mania’s return.
“It’s a fun, easy way to give back and engage with the community. I want to be a role model for my kids” and show what community service can look like, he said. “In a sense, it does kind of hit home because I can see first hand where that money goes. I think it’s so important to have people like Allan and Jen to be part of the community. When they asked me I was kind of honored in a way. It’s a fun way to raise money for a great cause.”
So much fun, in fact, Ritson said his abdominal muscles were sore at the end of the event from so much laughing.
Ritson said Pub Mania offers a chance for the community-minded people of the Lakes Region to join together.
“There is really no end-of-the-year celebration, which is kind of what Pub Mania is,” Ritson said. “I feel like this is a chance to do that in a fun way. I think think it’s a home run.”
For Taggart, “This is my Christmas. Family aside, this is what Christmas is really about, helping people in need.”
She said her sentiments were captured by Warren Bailey, the broadcaster who founded the Children’s Auction. “I think Warren Bailey said it so well at the opening ceremonies when he said there’s so much love in this room. You want to believe that there’s love in the world, the love definitely exists at Pub Mania and in the people involved.”
Beetle expressed a similar idea.
“It brings back how there are so many awesome people in our community, in one day to see so many people show up who raised money on behalf of the kids. There aren’t that many experiences when you are that enlivened by the goodness of the community.”
Ritson expected Pub Mania’s return to be a lasting one. “I can tell a lot of people are looking forward to next year, myself included.”
Read entire Laconia Daily Sun Article, Dec 26, 2023